Eating what you want, when you want, while still doing the things you love. Yes, I believe in exactly just that. I believe that I can not only achieve my goals to stay healthy and fit, but I can do it all without sacrificing my love of food and adventure!
Back in 2013, I made the decision to lose weight and take control of my life again. After gaining 25 pounds after high school, I was feeling lumpy, unmotivated, and not nearly as photogenic as I used to. It was a picture of me and my little, petite friend Ally that woke me up to the “new me” that I had truly become. It was in that moment that I decided: I choose a healthier me.
Almost five years later and 30 pounds down (YES. I am in better shape than I was in high school!), I live my life to the fullest while staying lean and eating delicious food! Here’s how I do it.
When I first lost all the weight, I had no idea what I was doing. I was eating under 1200 calories and power walking like a mall walker six out of seven days a week. Today, that sounds like utter torture. Today, I EAT FOOD. Granted, I can eat maintenance calories and still be satisfied with what I look at in the mirror.
Never heard the phrase “maintenance calories”? Well, it’s just that. It’s eating the number of calories, so that you can maintain your weight. Without getting too in-depth, I’ll provide you with this: https://tdeecalculator.net/. This handy-dandy link will take you to a fairly accurate calculator that can help you estimate about how many calories you can eat while staying around the same weight.
Today, contrary to the only 1200 calories I was eating to drop the fat (not healthy), the number of calories that I can consume while maintaining moderate exercise throughout the week is a whopping 2300 calories. No wonder I felt like I was starving myself back then. Did it work? Yes. Did I enjoy myself while doing that? Absolutely not.
So, how does this relate to eating what I want, when I want it? Well, it’s just this: I eat whatever I want, when I want while staying within my maintenance calories. I make positive choices in the kitchen like meal prepping, not eating out all the time because I can cook my little heart out, and making healthy things into satisfying, gourmet eats.
Here’s a little example. Now you may not be a huge breakfast person (and really during the week I’m not either), but on the weekends I treat myself. This fancy picture here is an egg pancake covered with turkey sausage links and Valentina’s hot sauce with a side of chocolate protein pudding topped with frozen blueberries and cinnamon. Delicious, filling, satisfying, and makes me feel like I made a special meal for just for me!
Most of my meals are a mishmash of whatever I have on hand. My own little “Chopped Kitchen” per say (thanks, Food Network.) When I shop at the grocery store, I do the loop: shopping the outer edges of the store while dipping into the aisles for a select few things (protein ice cream is almost always in my cart.) Because I like to buy fresh, I buy what’s on sale and pay attention to what is cheaper at different stores in my area. (Pro tip: if you’ve got a Fresh Thyme, go on double ad Wednesday.) If chicken is on sale for 99 cents a pound, you best believe I’m walking out of the store with at least four pounds of chicken to prep and freeze.
Now what do I do when I want to shovel food into my face hole until I feel like I can’t anymore? Well, it’s simple: intermittent fasting…ish. Now, I know the word “fasting” sounds scary and awful and really not fun at all. I won’t lie to you, I may have found some discomfort when I first jumped on the wagon, but it is so worth it. As I said before, breakfast and I aren’t really big during the work week, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t get hungry. How do I hold off? My tried and true, never fail friend: Peanut Butter. At around 10 o’clock every morning I dip my tablespoon into the vast depths of the usually massive container of peanut butter that I keep in my cubicle and I sit and munch on that for the next 30 to 45 minutes. Yes, you can make a tablespoon of peanut butter last that long and it will help hold you off. You get the satiation from the fat, while getting a little boost of protein. Win, win.
Come 11:30, my body and trained brain tell me that it’s lunch time. I eat a meal that I’ve already prepped at home, usually 6-7 ounces of chicken or ground turkey and as much broccoli and sweet potato slices as I could fit next to it in the container. Sometimes, I throw in a special sauce before I leave in the morning or sneak down to the caf’ for some BBQ. After lunch, I finish with a couple fork tips (you read that right) of peanut butter or a little piece of candy just to seal it off.
Because my fitness goals require more protein to help my muscles repair and grow big and strong, two o’clock chimes my protein shake. I prefer protein isolate, so I can get my grams without a lot of extra calories.
So, it’s dinner time. This is when I eat the most. I’m an American. I like my big dinners, which is why I have save so many calories throughout the day by structuring my satisfying meals and snacks without sacrificing the amount of food I can shovel into the night. Between the peanut butter, lunch, and my shake, I’ll have only consumed around 700 calories, which leaves me literally 1600 calories for dinner. I eat very well. Let me tell you. Burgers. Chili. Sausage, sauerkraut, and dumplings. Protein pancakes covered in syrup if I’m feeling breakfasty for dinner. And, more often than not, I am having something for dessert, whether simple protein pudding or protein ice cream or a handful of dark chocolate chips that live in my freezer full-time.
This is how I cater my diet to my life. I work an 8-4 job, so structuring my food during the day is pretty easy, but figuring out what works for me was the hard part. I listen to my body and eat what I want when I want it. Usually, I’m craving fat, so I let it happen. (Thank you peanut butter for curbing my constant cravings.) Don’t be fooled, you aren’t really always hungry, you’re probably dehydrated. Drink more water. Can’t just drink plain water? Start with tea. Don’t like tea? Maybe try those flavored water drops. Just get more into your system and you’ll notice a world of difference!
Eating deliciously and eating to satisfaction doesn’t have to make you look or feel fat. It can fuel being fit and healthy, without making sacrifices. It can be wonderful and enjoyable, and once you figure out what works for you, then you’re whole world will change for the better! You just have to experiment.
Listen to your body. Listen to your cravings. Give your body the fuel it needs to thrive, while also living the beautiful imagined life that you have always deserved!